For Immediate Release, November 20, 2007
Contact: Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Conservationists Challenge Controversial New Rules for Forest Wildlife
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— Rejecting a decade of restoration-based forest management, the U.S. Forest Service has unilaterally revised its guidelines for management of wildlife on national forests in Arizona and New Mexico.
On November 19th, the Coconino National Forest agreed with conservationists that the first major logging project under the new guidelines required additional environmental analysis. But the agency stopped short of agreeing that the new wildlife guidelines required independent environmental review and public consideration.
“The Forest Service illegally amended every forest plan in Arizona and New Mexico by failing to involve the public and state agencies prior to weakening important wildlife protections for national forests,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The new guidelines spell disaster for southwestern wildlife and old growth.”
The new guidelines significantly weaken wildlife protections and could lead to dramatically increased logging of large, old-growth trees. The amended guidelines could signal a new round of timber wars in the Southwest.
On October 19th the Center for Biological Diversity and Forest Guardians objected to the first project explicitly implementing the new guidelines, the Jack Smith/Schultz project northeast of Flagstaff, which would log more than 8,000 acres, including an undisclosed number of large, old-growth trees.
The Coconino National Forest on Monday agreed with conservationists on eight objection counts, requiring additional analysis and a second objection period prior to the project moving forward.
The Arizona Department of Game and Fish submitted comments on the Jack Smith project that were critical of the agency’s changes to the Northern Goshawk Guidelines, recognizing that the change “has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of forest cover within treated areas,” and could lead to the Forest Service not meeting habitat requirements for the northern goshawk and its prey. (See Jack Smith Draft Environmental Assessment, pages 221-222, available on request or at the Forest Service’s Web site: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/nepa/index.shtml#07sep14.)
“There’s broad agreement that good forest restoration requires careful public and scientific review,” said McKinnon. “It’s both illegal and counterproductive for the Forest Service to unilaterally change wildlife-protection rules across two entire states without consulting anyone.”
Based on conservationists’ objections, the Jack Smith/Schultz project will undergo additional analysis and revision prior to being subject to a second objection period. The Forest Service has not indicated if or how it plans to independently address the new goshawk guidelines.
“The Jack Smith project marks round one for the new goshawk guidelines,” added McKinnon. “It’s up to the Forest Service how many more rounds we’ll go.”
The Center was joined in the objection by Forest Guardians.
Download Center for Biological Diversity objection to the Jack Smith/Schultz project here.
Download the Forest Service’s response to the objection here.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a nonprofit conservation organization with more than 35,000 members dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.